Parents often find that with a new baby, time seems to warp. Some days with a sick or sleepless kiddo can feel like the longest of your life. But other days, you look at your (not-so-little) little one and wonder where the time has gone.
Weaning your baby from night feedings can feel like one of those times. You may feel excited about the potential for longer stretches of sleep and simultaneously wonder if your baby is ready for this transition.
While all babies are different, there are a few key things to know about when, how, and what to expect when night weaning. Here is the essential information you need to learn if you’re considering weaning from night feedings:
Here are a few indicators that your baby may be ready:
Be sure to discuss with your doctor or lactation consultant to make sure your baby is getting enough nourishment and is ready for night weaning. If your baby is sick, in a growth spurt, or teething, it might be best to wait a little before you start to wean.
If you’re looking to start night feeding, here are some tips for success:
Even if your baby is at a weight and age where they no longer need feedings, if they aren’t eating enough during the day, they may use night feedings to supplement. Ensure that they’re making up for less ounces at night by longer feedings or more ounces per feeding during the day. You may need to adjust your regular feeding schedule for this. Some parents like to do a dream feeding right before they go to bed.
Babies at this stage are often looking for comfort to get back to sleep. You can go in and offer a pacifier or pat on the back instead. You can help your baby learn to self-soothe by giving them a chance to get back to sleep, or fall asleep themselves at the start of the night, on their own. When you do go in for night feedings, try to keep the interactions brief and don’t linger.
If your baby has poor sleep, they may wake more often. Set your baby up for success by helping them get longer rest. If they wake themselves with their startle reflex, a swaddle transition product such as the Magic Sleepsuit can reduce the frequency of unnecessary wakeups.
Taking it slowly will likely make it easier on your baby, and on you. If you are breastfeeding, a sudden stop can be painful and put you at risk of mastitis. Reduce the length of time of feedings and gradually space them out longer. To ease pain, you can pump before bed, and at night if you need to. If bottle feeding, focus on reducing the number of ounces fed at night or increased time between bottle feedings.
The process will be different for every family depending on your baby and you as parents. Know that for most babies, weaning from night feedings takes some time. Don’t expect immediate results, and make sure to give it a fair try.
It’s important to know that weaning from night feedings can be hard for parents as well. It may be uncomfortable for you to hear your baby be frustrated and cry more at night initially. If you are consistent with your schedule, it will help your baby to get through this more quickly. But that being said, it’s okay to make adjustments as you go. You can always take a step back and move more slowly if you need to.
Weaning off of night feedings can look very different for different families. Some babies adjust more quickly than others. Other families may decide not to night wean at all. If you feel your current schedule is working for you, don’t feel a need to force it because your baby is a certain age. Make sure to discuss with your doctor throughout the process, as they can give you more personalized advice.
It's important to be patient with yourself and your baby. Ask a partner for help to take turns going in at night. Talk to other parents with kiddos in a similar stage. By helping your baby to be less dependent on night feedings, you can help them to get longer stretches of sleep and to learn how to self-soothe. And you can look forward to some more steady shut-eye yourself!